Ithaca, N.Y. — President Abraham Lincoln was killed just before the 13th Amendment was ratified by the states and forever ended slavery in the United States.
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Before he died, however, America’s 16th president signed 14 commemorative manuscript copies of the amendment — one of which was on display this month at Cornell’s Kroch library for an exhibit, “Lincoln’s Unfinished Work.”
Watch a video interview about the exhibit with Lance Heidig, Cornell curator, produced by the Ithaca Voice’s Erica Moriarty:
The 13th Amendment was passed in 1865, or 150 years ago. That’s the same year Cornell University was founded, and the university is also celebrating its “sesquicentennial” this year.
For Heidig, the curator, the overlap is no mere coincidence.
“This goes right back to the very founding of the university,” Heidig says.
“We’re celebrating Cornell’s 150th birthday, which is intricately involved with all these other events happening in the country.”
Heidig notes that the Cornell’s first president, Andrew Dickson White, was also a book collector.
“During the Civil War, (White) was collecting all sort of ephemeral items that he put into his seven-volume scrapbook,” Heidig says. “…He knew that they’d be useful for teaching in years after.”
According to the university, the new exhibition featured the signed document, as well as a pair of slave shackles, a playbill from Ford’s Theater on the night of Lincoln’s assassination and “other artifacts associated with Lincoln’s final months and his funeral.”
You can learn more about the exhibit here: http://rmc.library.cornell.edu/thirteenth/.